20240204 rain in dubai
Heavy rain, thunder, hail and lightning hit the UAE over the weekend. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: Many parts of the UAE woke up to heavy rain, thunder, and lightning, early on Saturday morning. To ensure the safety of Dubai residents, Dubai Police issued a public safety alert via phone on Friday evening, warning people about the weather conditions and urging them to take precautions.

“Dubai is expected within the next few hours to experience adverse weather conditions. Avoid beaches, refrain from sailing, stay clear of valleys and areas prone to flash floods, exercise caution, drive with care and heed the advice of the authorities,” Dubai Police stated in the alert.

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These alerts are part of a ‘National Early Warning System’ created by the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) to warn the public about threats and risks in 'emergency situations'.

Dubai Police public safety alert
Dubai Police public safety alert from Friday evening, March 8. Image Credit: Huda Tabrez/Gulf News

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What is the ‘National Early Warning System’

The public warning system project started in 2017, and it alerts residents and visitors in the UAE about an imminent emergency.

These messages target specific populations in defined geographic locations.

According to NCEMA, public safety alerts reduce the impact of extreme weather conditions by reaching as many people as possible to warn them of potential dangers and threats.

Which authorities are allowed to issue warning alerts?

Only government agencies involved in national emergency management, are allowed to send out alerts. They are:
• NCEMA
• Ministry of Interior (MOI)
• Abu Dhabi Police
• Dubai Police
• Sharjah Police
• Ajman Police
• Um Al Quwain Police
• Ras Al Khaimah Police
• Fujairah Police
• Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP)

What does the alert state?

According to NCEMA, when an emergency occurs, the alerting authority will issue the warning alert with the necessary instructions and actions to be taken by the public. The message is routed to mobile phones and a warning message is displayed on the mobile phone screen.

The alert includes a vibration and loud warning tone to draw the person’s attention. The alert is sent out in two languages - Arabic and English.

How is the safety alert sent out?

According to NCEMA, the technology used to deliver warning alerts is called cellular broadcast (CB). If the warning alert was issued to a specific geographical location, and if that mobile phone is within the selected geographical location, the alert gets delivered to all the mobile devices in that area.

Does everyone in the UAE get these alerts?

Both residents and visitors in the UAE get public warning alerts. The alerts feature is enabled by default on your smartphone (both Apple and Android), so you don’t have to go into your settings and allow the notifications.

National Early Warning System public safety alert
For iPhone users, you can find the public alerts already enabled under the ‘Notifications’ sections in your settings. Image Credit: Screenshot

While phones that are more than three years old are not compatible with the early warning system, most of the phones have been updated through the manufacturers to comply with the specifications developed for the UAE, according to the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA).